WR Josh Palmer
The Chargers desperately needed a big play to help ice the game against the pesky Raiders on Sunday afternoon. The offense had previously failed a fourth-and-one attempt at their own 34-yard line just a few minutes of game time ago and had their defense bail them out with a goal-line interception. Unfortunately, Asante Samuel Jr. chose to slide down at their 11-yard line as opposed to gaining as many yards as possible to help shit the field position battle in the waning minutes.
The Chargers gained zero yards on their first two plays and were staring down a third-and-10 with an even two minutes left in regulation. A punt meant potentially giving the Raiders decent field position with plenty of time on the clock despite having zero timeouts remaining.
Enter Palmer, who rose to the occasion on the biggest money down of the day.
The Chargers wanted to finish the Raiders with possession of the ball. To do that, they needed to convert on third-and-10 from their own 11-yard line. Herbert dropped back, navigated a muddy pocket, then fired an absolute strike to Palmer up the left sideline who caught the ball in stride.
It wasn’t a huge day for Herbert and the passing game, but when the Chargers needed a play, they came through in the biggest moment. The 51-yard completion gave Palmer a team-high 77 receiving yards on just three catches.
QB Justin Herbert
Herbert did not have his usual day passing but big gains on the ground by several players helped alleviate the pressure off his shoulders to go out and single-handedly win the game for the Chargers.
On the second play of the game, Derius Davis took a pitch out of the backfield and scooted 51 yards. Several plays later, Herbert scrambled out of the pocket and squeezed just inside the right pylon to score from 11 yards out. Later in the game, Herbert converted another quarterback sneak from the one-foot line to give him his first game with multiple rushing touchdowns.
His biggest moment came on the final non-kneel play of the game where he delivered the 51-yard bullet to Josh Palmer that helped seal the win for the Chargers. He finished with just a little over 100 yards passing outside of that final completion, but overall Herbert gutted through a pretty severe finger injury to help his team reach .500 before the bye.
EDGE Khalil Mack
What a friggin’ day for Mack. After failing to notch a sack through the first three games of the season, Mack exploded for six quarterback takedowns which set the single-game Chargers franchise record. He also notched two forced fumbles and almost single-handedly kept the Chargers from blowing a 17-point lead.
Since joining the Chargers prior to the 2022 season, Mack has recorded 14 total sacks. A whopping nine of those sacks have now come against his former team in the Raiders. To further emphasize just how dominant he’s been against Las Vegas, those nine sacks only came in two of the three games he’s played against them over the past 1+ seasons.
While it’s probably ideal for Mack to be more consistent on a week-to-week basis, no one will complain about this type of production from the veteran. If he can come close to this level of play for the remainder of the season, Mack could push for tying his career high in sacks when he recorded 15 during his second professional season in 2015.
The Tush Push
I had been waiting and waiting for the Chargers to finally get the memo that the “Tush Push” quarterback was something they needed to utilize with their 6’6 quarterback on these crucial fourth-and-one situations. Against the Raiders, facing a fourth-and-one in the fourth quarter, the Chargers finally called the play in an attempt to convert and continue milking the clock.
Unfortunately, the Chargers are not the Eagles. With backup center Will Clapp starting in place of Corey Linsley (non-emergent heart condition), the Bolts couldn’t muster the lone yard they needed. With 3:34 remaining in regulation, they turned the ball over on downs at their own 34-yard line nursing a seven-point lead.
The defense ended up bailing them out in the end via an interception by Asante Samuel Jr., but the sting of the failed attempt still lingers, especially after their failed fourth-down attempt a week ago against the Vikings.
Say what you want about Brandon Staley’s decision to go for it, the Chargers 110 percent should have gotten the yard. And yes, things in the NFL are easier said than done, but the great teams who rise to the occasion week-in and week-out find a way to get that yard.
If the physically-limited Tom Brady can be automatic on the sneak, Justin Herbert can too. It just as much comes down to the offensive line’s performance, as well. It’s probably not something they’ll continue to practice now that Herbert’s finger is injured, but I’d argue the need for repetition in these “gotta have it” moments is still incredibly important if the team insists on continuing to put themselves in those situations.